Recently, Austine Cline, of the about.com breed of atheists, has offered this critique of my position on Christian voting/acts in government. My own post on the topic can be found here. I would like to clear up a few things about the position I hold. These clarifications will be found in numbered italics throughout the post below.
1) I accept the authority and respect the secular government.
Cline started his caricature of my position immediately with his title. The title of his entry is “J.W. Wartick: Christians Should Reject Secular Government.”
Let me make this clear. That is a position I deny, and in fact oppose. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:5-7 that “it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Being a Christian who views the Bible as a source of authority, I agree wholeheartedly.
2) My previous post on the government was intended as a wake-up call to Christians who are lax when voting on moral issues.
One who reads my previous post on this topic should be able to discern that I was not advocating a theocracy, but rather a theo-centric approach to voting. I was arguing that Christians should vote their beliefs, not what they think is most “neutral.” Cline took that and ran with it, and, whether intentionally or not, used his post to try to portray me as some kind of fanatic advocating the overthrow of government in favor of a theocracy. Again, such a position may exist somewhere, but it is not the position I hold.
3) The authority of government comes from God.
Again, Paul makes this clear in Romans 13:1 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Obviously, this won’t be convincing to the atheist. But this is intended to rebut a critique from Cline, who wrote, “[Wartick’s argument] presumes that the government has any authority to prevent ‘unrepentant sin’ and ‘unbelief’ in the first place.”
Clearly, if the government gets its authority from God, then it would have the authority to do this. Cline is an atheist, so he rejects such a structure of authority. However, being a Christian, I don’t see any reason to reject it. Yet the focus of Cline’s critique was based upon this premise (in fact, he restates it later “On what basis does Wartick think he has the right to enlist the government to help him prevent other Christians from doing things which he thinks is sinful but they don’t?” and then again in regards to other religions).
My answer to these questions is simple: the government gets its authority from God, so it does have the authority to do these things. Cline presented no argument to the contrary, nor did he offer a positive argument for secular government, other than a brief note that Christians established it to begin with so they would stop killing each other (according to Cline). So Cline’s counter-argument merely begs the question by assuming a secular authority structure. If there were no God or if the authority of the government were not from God, then he would have a valid critique. But criticizing my argument in this manner does not serve to do anything but beg the question against the Christian theist, particularly because my original post was written to fellow Christians (hence the closing line, “Christians, why are you politically atheists?”).
4) Cline misrepresented my argument.
As I’ve already hinted at, Cline cherry-picked portions of my post, and then made a title which seems to aim more towards sensationalism than any kind of respectful debate. I never argued Christians should reject secular government; I did argue that Christians should not be atheists themselves when it comes to politics. This kind of fear-mongering about Christians in politics doesn’t serve anyone but those who are already fanatics themselves–to the other extreme.